Menlo College Professor Addresses DACA Program

Menlo College Professor Addresses DACA Program

Atherton, CA – September 13, 2017 – Members of the Menlo College community gathered last night to discuss recent national developments related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and to hear from expert Melissa R. Michelson, professor of political science, on what is happening and how they can get involved.

Michelson has a 2014 book on the topic, Living the Dream, which she wrote in the wake of President Obama’s announcement of the program on June 15, 2012. In July and August of that year, she and her research team interviewed 101 undocumented Latino youth about their lives and their political attitudes.

Michelson noted that DACA recipients came to the U.S. as children–at the average age of six years old–and many did not know that they were undocumented until they were older teenagers, when they were applying for a driver’s license or to go to college and needed a Social Security Number. “It comes as a big shock, because they’ve grown up thinking they’re Americans,” Michelson said.

“Their parents didn’t tell them, because kids aren’t really good at keeping secrets,” Michelson said. “And a large proportion didn’t know because there was no dramatic entry story. They didn’t cross a desert on foot or swim across a body of water. Many undocumented immigrants, especially children, come on visitor visas with their families and then just stay.”

Of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Michelson noted, just a small number of them are affected by DACA. Eligibility was limited to those who came when they were younger than 16, could prove they were here for five continuous years, had a clean record, and had graduated from high school (or had a GED), were still in school, or had served in the military.

Michelson noted that the DREAMer movement, named after the bill first introduced in 2001 to refer to these young people, tries to not demonize anyone.

“They are here because of various push and pull forces that drive international migration, and they don’t want folks saying that ‘these are the good ones’ to be interpreted to mean that their parents are the bad ones,” Michelson said. “I’m not going to get into that. But when Obama announced DACA he did emphasize that these youth were here and undocumented through no fault of their own, but because of the decisions of their parents.”

Michelson noted that many members of the Menlo Community, even if they are not undocumented themselves, may have a friend or family member who is. “These immigration policies affect all of us,” she said.

“If you want Congress to act, you need to find out more about DACA, talk to people about it, and, most importantly, contact your representatives and urge them to pass legislation,” Michelson said.

Michelson is a nationally-recognized expert on Latino politics and immigration politics. On February 7, 2017, Michelson chaired a panel held at University of California Davis titled “DACA, DAPA, and Deportation Threat.” More information about her scholarship is available at